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THE LIFE OF HOLLYWOOD

For silver spoon scions, the claims of fame

As any child of celebrity's close-knit clan can tell you, membership has its privileges. Just beware of the dues.

July 16, 2006|Mimi Avins | Times Staff Writer

Jealousy and pity are equally unwelcome to a kid who yearns for the conformity children famously crave. Connie Stevens divorced crooner Eddie Fisher when her two daughters were small. Joely Fisher, whose beauty seems intensified when she holds her infant daughter in her arms during an interview, says: "People still ask me about him, with this look. It's like they're saying, 'I'm sorry. It must be so hard to be you.' " Fisher could always read the thoughts behind another look directed at her and her sister, actress Tricia Leigh Fisher. "Oh, they grew up in show business, they must be so troubled," she says. "Well, yeah. We had the same problems as anyone else, just in a bigger house. When you were 16 and a boy said he loved you and he didn't love you, it felt the same. It hurt."

Classmates don't know what a producer or an art director does and simply equate any job in entertainment with wealth. Tori Spelling, daughter of the late Aaron Spelling and who has been treated as if her family invented nepotism, says, "When I was little, I didn't know the difference between being famous and rich. It all mortified me. I'd be teased if my parents pulled up in a limo. There was no 'Wow, isn't he fabulous and creative and we love his shows.' It was 'Your dad's a producer, you have tons of money.' It was a negative."

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Whom can you trust?

MEMBERS of this tribe become wise to the ways of users and climbers, and by the time they're adults they've lived for so long with suspicions about the motives of so-called friends that they worry less about who can be trusted than an outsider might think. Most seem secure in the belief that, in time, insincerity floats. It's pretty obvious when an acquaintance is after something, an introduction, for example.

Bloom's prizewinning date from hell was the guy who told her one of the high points of his life was standing next to her father in a men's room, where they were doing what men do standing up in men's rooms. "When you meet someone new, there is an element of, 'Is this person liking me for me, or because he can get closer to my dad, who has power in this business?' " Bloom says. "Usually it's, 'Who knows?' In that case, what he said was a clue that I wasn't going on another date with this guy."

Evan Ross, Diana Ross' 17-year-old son, is a tall, rangy boy with large, dark eyes. He recently began acting in films and has long been intelligently wary of phonies who might gossip about him or dine out on the status his acquaintance can provide. With any cellphone a potential camera, a custodian of a well-known name must be on guard. "In my family, we don't talk about our personal business when someone might be listening," Ross says. "My sister used to tell me that I have to be really mindful of who our mom is when I go out. There were times when I was younger when I'd want to fight someone. I'd think, 'If I got in a fight, how big would it be blown up?' I think about my mom's reputation."

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Who's the winner?

THE son of a dentist who follows in his father's footsteps might wonder whether he'll ever measure up to his dad, professionally. Perhaps making more money or having a bigger practice would be proof of having bested the old man. Hollywood is full of benchmarks. If you're an actor and your actor-father has two Academy Awards and you have none, are you doomed to feel less accomplished? What if awards go to the offspring, not the parent? Pride in a child's triumphs notwithstanding, does a more successful kid feel guilty for surpassing a parent?

If the problems of competing in a parent's profession loom large enough, the logical reaction would be to spurn that industry. Some Hollywood scions do. Many others (Angelina Jolie, Emilio Estevez, Jennifer Jason Leigh) go as far as using names different from their parents (actors Jon Voight, Martin Sheen and Vic Morrow, respectively).

Why would a marquee name be a burden? Well, along with recognition and the cross of competition, it brings the curse of expectation. It can be hard to shine standing in a shadow. Howard says, "I consider my dad solely a director because that's what he was all my life. I'm lucky. I feel bad for a lot of children of actors because when they start out they're expected to be what their parent is now, in their 50s. That 50-year-old actor grew, over the years. To be fair to their child, you'd have to look at the parent's work at the beginning of their career."

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